Dad regained significant use of arm and leg after MS attack

Hi, everyone.

My father has MS. He’s currently forty-five, and was diagnosed about five years ago. He tends to have a fairly aggressive relapse every eight months (the frequency has gradually increased over time).

He relapsed again earlier this week. His condition prior to this relapse was limited mobility in his right hand, arm and leg, and about 80% mobility in his left hand, arm and leg. The reason that I’m posting is that his condition is significantly different after his last relapse, but not in an entirely negative way. Though the left side of his body has notably declined, the right side of his body has now regained about 80% of its mobility in two days. Before this attack, he couldn’t move his arm above his forehead; now, he can move his arm completely freely. His right leg used to drag, but now he has significant control over it. He has also recovered a lot of dexterity in his fingers (before, he would struggle to open an envelope with his right hand).

I’m curious whether or not these kind of improvements after a relapse is a common occurrence. Has anybody else experienced something like this, either in themselves or a family member?

Hi Jake,

Although there is often (not always) significant recovery from relapses, I have never known the recovery to encompass pre-existing symptoms that didn’t stem from the relapse, no.

I am not disputing your dad’s experience, but no, I do not think it is at all common.

Has he been medically assessed to confirm this is, in fact, a relapse? The reason I ask is that if it only started earlier this week, it would be quite unusual to have any notable recovery so soon, let alone of longstanding symptoms unconnected with the relapse.

Although, clinically, relapses of as little as 24 hours are recognised as possible, they are not the norm, and a “typical” relapse (if there is any such thing) lasts five or six weeks, and can last much longer. So I find it slightly odd you feel a relapse has been and gone in under a week, and wonder if this episode was ever a genuine relapse. Is there any possibility he’s had an infection which has now cleared up, for example? An infection can cause many of the symptoms of a relapse, without actually being one.

The only other thing I can think of is IF a relapse has been treated with steroids, it may coincidentally bring about some improvement in other symptoms long thought to be permanent. I’ve never tried steroids myself, but have heard of even people with progressive forms of MS regaining some function after a short course of steroids. Unfortunately, the downside is that steroids are not safe to be used long term - not in the doses typically prescribed for MS, anyway - so the improvement tends to be unsustainable.


Thank you for your response.

Yes, it was definitely a relapse. He lost his ability to walk (due to sudden, poor mobility on his left side), and his speech has reverted back to how it was after the last relapse. He has had almost no improvement in either of these areas, and is still in hospital. Certainly, it has not been and gone - the damage has been done in these areas, and it is going to take some time to recover.

Steroids sounds like it could be the cause for the dramatic improvement, as he has been treated with these. I just pray that this mobility in his right side can persist, at least to a reasonable extent. He has consistently been treated with steroids after relapses, and we have never seen anything like this.